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China defends economic growth at climate conference
Xinhua (14 December 2004)

China expects to increase energy consumption for up to 50 years and will not join any initiative to reduce global warming that threatens its economic rise, the head of the Chinese delegation to the UN climate change conference here said Monday.

"We are a developing country, we're not yet making international commitments," said Gao Feng, delegation chief and a top official at the Chinese foreign ministry, in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

"We will continue to attend to our energy needs. We will need to increase our energy consumption for the next 30 to 50 years."

China has been a key topic at the UN climate change conference seeking to find ways to reduce the greenhouse gases that are considered the main cause of global warming.

Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is mainly linked to energy usage and Gao insisted China has a strong case for not reducing its emissions.

"People are saying, you'll have to curb your energy needs like people in the International Energy Agency. They say that developing countries must curb their energy needs, I cannot accept that, it is something totally wrong."

Gao said that China's per capita emissions were only one sixth of the average for Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rich nations. "We are only one eighth of the emissions of the US CO2 emissions from energy per capita per year.

"In terms of electricity consumption per head, China is only one thirteenth of that of the United States."

Gao said experts should not be surprised if in 20 or 30 years China is the world's main source of carbon dioxide emissions. He said China would seek negotiations with other countries on ways to help the international effort while not making cuts at home.

China is currently the second biggest carbon dioxide emitter in total, behind the United States, but way behind on a per capita level.

Unlike the United States, China is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol which imposes cuts in emissions of six polluting, global warming gases by 2012. The six includes carbon dioxide which is given off in car exhaust and by factories.

The Buenos Aires conference opened on Dec 6 to consider how to implement the first UN climate change convention and the application of the Kyoto protocol, which will come into effect in February.

Environment ministers from about 90 nations who will meet in the Argentine capital Dec 15-17 are to discuss a possible new accord after 2012 because of the gathering pace of global warming.

European nations want even tougher restrictions and have been joined for the first time by some emerging nations.

The United States rejects Kyoto and talk of even negotiating a new accord.

Gao said China would set four main conditions for a post-Kyoto agreement.

He said any accord must conform with the UN climate change convention -- meaning that developed countries must make stronger commitments than developing nations, which must get financial and technical help.

Secondly, no commitment would be made that hinders growth and poverty alleviation.

Gao said there should be an approach that brings as many countries into the accord -- including the United States and Australia which did not ratify Kyoto. He also called for a stronger technology transfer element to help cut emissions.

He said US participation in any accord would be considered by China before it agrees to any new protocol.

Copyright 2004 Xinhua Financial Network Limited
All Rights Reserved.
Xinhua Financial Network News


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